1 of 2
James Burton International Guitar Festival
This year’s James Burton International Guitar Festival will be Aug. 22-24.
2 of 2
James Burton has donated hundreds of guitars to children since 2005.
Trace Adkins, Priscilla Presley, Ann Wilson and Paul Shaffer are among the invited guests to help James Burton celebrate his 75th birthday at this year’s James Burton International Guitar Festival, Aug. 22-24.
Let’s start this off with certain assumptions: I am going to assume you know a lot about Shreveport’s own (actually born in Dubberly) James Burton, OK?
I will assume you know he is a Grammy Award-winning instrumentalist, and that he is arguably the most recorded guitar player in history. I will also assume you know Rolling Stone Magazine names him the No. 19 guitarist in history, that he has been nominated for 21 country music awards, and that he has won seven of them (three for his Dobro work instead of guitar). I will further assume you know he is a member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Hall of Fame and the Fender Guitars Hall of Fame, and that he has graced the cover of Guitar Player Magazine more than once (including the current issue, which labels him “Guitar God,” “Session King” and “Legend”). Additionally, I’m sure you are aware he was the guitar player in Ricky (later “Rick”) Nelson’s band in the Ozzie and Harriet series, and that he was the staff guitarist at the original Louisiana Hayride and on the national television show “Shindig!”
There’s more. As the major session guitarist (and Dobro player) in Tennessee, California, and New York for many years, Burton can be heard on a variety of styles and types of music. He has performed on hundreds of hit songs with artists as diverse as Elvis (both Presley and Costello), Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Brad Paisley and Willie Nelson. And that only scratches the surface. Many of the familiar guitar parts you have heard over the past 60 years were created and played by James Burton. He is an innovator and an original.
Those accomplishments led Burton into the charitable venture he first undertook in 2005, when he and his wife, Louise, came up with the idea to form The James Burton Foundation, and to hold powerhouse concerts for charity. But this was not intended to be the normal type of fundraising charity. This one would most naturally have to do with the gift of music – specifically, guitar music.
In a recent conversation, Burton told me how “music had been so good to him” throughout his life, and that he and Louise felt they needed a vehicle to somehow give something back. He said he believes in the magic of music, and that they felt giving quality guitars to needy kids was the perfect way to introduce kids who may have otherwise never been afforded the opportunity to experience that “magic.” So, through donations and proceeds from the James Burton International Guitar Festival, he and Louise have been able to provide decent guitars to hundreds of kids since 2005.
The major recording artists and instrumentalists who appear at the festival donate their time and talents, simply because James asked them to. That’s the kind of respect he has earned. The guitars they give away have gone to schools, to St. Jude’s Research Center, and other deserving places, with this year’s guitars going to the children of The Wounded Warriors Project.
This year’s festivities include a 75th birthday celebration for James under the Red River Bridge on Aug. 22 beginning at 5 p.m. On Aug. 23, the student Guitar Showdown will begin at 3:30 p.m., and the main concert at the Municipal begins at 7:30 p.m. in addition to Adkins, Presley, Wilson and Shaffer, this year’s lineup includes Jimmie Vaughn, Rick Derringer, Cole Vosbury and even Mike Wolfe (from American Pickers), as well as many more. James said there will be a “special surprise” having something to do with his 75th birthday and his signature Fender James Burton Telecaster. Tickets are available at ticketmaster.com, and VIP tickets by calling 318.424.5000. Come out and celebrate with James, and be a part of giving the gift of music to a child.
For more information, visit the James Burton International Guitar Festival online at www.jamesburtonfestival.com.
By Robin Vosbury